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Spin Control

Archive for March 2013

Sunday Spin: Let’s skip the folksy budget analogies

OLYMPIA – It is a rare day in the session that some legislator doesn’t offer the folksy wisdom that the state would be fine if it would just balance the budget like the folks back home.

Sometimes, those folks are mom and pop entrepreneurs on Main Street, struggling to make payroll as sales drop and the costs rise. They tighten their belts, take a smaller profit, layoff a worker or two, have a few more go to part-time, maybe buy a smaller ad in the local high school yearbook.

More often, though, the folks are a family around the kitchen table, deciding how to stretch the paycheck for food, clothes, braces or the kids’ college fund after paying the mortgage and the utility bill. They make those hard choices on what to do without, a legislator will say in a floor speech. Maybe get another year out of the pickup, carpool to work, put off that trip to Disneyland until next summer.

Such homey examples are designed to communicate the state’s budget situation to the folks back home. But they may actually do the folks back home a disservice by oversimplifying what the state budget is.

 To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Honoring Vietnam vets

Leeman Able, a member of the Shoshone Paiute tribe, stands at the Washington Vietnam Memorial Friday during a ceremony to welcome home Vietnam veterans.

OLYMPIA — Saturday is officially “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” under a bill passed by the Legislature and signed Friday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

To mark the occasion, a ceremony spearheaded by the Yakama Nation and various veterans groups held a ceremony at the state's Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall on the Capitol Campus Friday, with a drum circle, tribal songs and a bugler playing “Taps.”

Many veterans who returned from Vietnam were not welcomed home at the time, and some were shunned, speakers said, simply for carrying out the orders of their leaders.

Washington became the eighth state to pass a law making March 30 a day to honor Vietnam veterans.

Inslee: Extend temporary taxes, close loopholes to spend more on schools

Gov. Jay Inslee explains his budget as students from Seattle's Cleveland High School look on.

OLYMPIA — The state should make temporary tax increases on beer and some business services permanent, cancel a variety of other tax breaks and spend an extra $1.2 billion on public schools, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday.

Standing in front of a group of Seattle high school students involved in a program to boost science and math skills, the governor released his first budget proposal. It’s a plan for expanded programs from pre-kindergarten to high school, designed to satisfy a state Supreme Court order to adequately fund public schools.

“We must do hard things. It’s the right thing to choose education over these tax breaks,” he said at a press conference to announce his spending plan for the 2013-15 budget cycle.

The proposal met quick resistance from Senate Republicans, who will likely release the first full budget in the Legislature next week. It will not propose tax increases or ending the tax exemptions Inslee proposed, Sen. Mark Schoesler of Ritzville, the Senate Republican leader, said. . .

 To continue reading about the budget propsal, and reaction, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 74: Inslee budget out later this morning

House Speaker Frank Chopp buys cookies and a brownie from Kate Hunter and Maureen Bo, who were manning the table of a “bake sale” for seniors and the disabled in the Capitol.

OLYMPIA — The Legislature has a pretty full day of hearings on this Maundi Thursday, but most attention will be on Gov. Jay Inslee as he releases his budget recommendations for the 2013-15 biennium at 11 a.m. today.

Before Inslee announces his spending plan, a group of seniors in the basement of the Capitol is holding a “bake sale”, with plans to turn the money raised from cookies and brownies over to House Speaker Frank Chopp and Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom as a way of signaling the state isn't spending enough on seniors and the disabled. Other groups are gathering for the budget unveiling in the governor's conference room.

Spin Control will have details from the press conference. In the meantime, the complete list of committee hearings can be found inside the blog.

State gets B- on budget transparency

OLYMPIA – Washington gets a good grade for showing its residents how the state spends their money, but probably deserves lower marks for letting them see how those spending decisions are made, government watchdog groups said Wednesday on the eve of the next big milestone in the budget process.

Gov. Jay Inslee is scheduled to release his budget recommendations Thursday morning, on day 74 of the 105-day legislative session, and the Senate Majority Caucus is expected to release its full budget sometime next week. The date is certain, but it’s unlikely to be Monday, which is April Fool’s Day.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

High-skilled jobs go begging

OLYMPIA – Although the state’s unemployment numbers may be slowly declining, the number of open jobs for skilled workers is rising and could double in the next five years, a business group said Wednesday.

A new study by an international consulting firm estimates the state’s businesses have about 25,000 openings for highly skilled workers in computer sciences, engineering and health care that don’t have people to fill them, Steve Mullin of the Washington Roundtable said. . .

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WA Lege Day 73: Budget transparency

OLYMPIA — Legislative committees have a fairly full day of hearings today, on topics large and small, ranging from legislation on spaying pets to a work session on the Washington State University global campus.

The Legislature will also get a grade on transparency in how it spends its money from the Washington Public Interest Research Group, which is part of an effort grading all states on how easy it is to follow online their government spending data. It's an A through F system, not pass-fail.

The Children's Alliance is holding its “Homesick for Spokane” luncheon, an annual event where groups that work on children's issues feed food from the Spokane area to legislators who may be missing it. The Aerospace Futures Alliance will also be pushing for legislation it likes.

For a complete list of committee hearings, check inside the blog.

Legislature honors Booth Gardner

Cadet honor guard carries the state flag to the Senate rostrum during joint session to honor Gardner.

OLYMPIA – With his family in the gallery and flags outside lowered to half-staff, Booth Gardner was eulogized Friday in the Senate chamber where he once served, as a champion of children, education and personal choice . . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Today’s fun video: Obama fills in his bracket

 

In what has become an annual ritual, President Obama filled out his NCAA Tournament Bracket for ESPN earlier this week. (Spoiler alert: He says nice things about Gonzaga, but doesn't pick them to win it all.)

Which prompted the second annual ritual of Republicans complaining that the president was spending time filling out his bracket than doing something more important. To read the Politico roundup, click here.

But it seems the GOP misses an important element of this: Obama is giving thousands — maybe even hundreds of thousands — of college basketball fans a chance to say they're smarter than him when it comes to picking winners in the tournament.

Three finalists picked for Spokane library director

The Spokane Public Library will get new leadership just as its funding stabilizes after years of uncertainty.

Pat Partovi, who has led the library since 2003, will retire May 10.

“It’s a perfect opportunity for a new director,” Partovi said.

The process to pick Partovi’s successor is well underway. The Library Board of Trustees will choose among three finalists on Wednesday. The public can ask the candidates questions at an event on Saturday.

Keep reading for the names of the three finalists.

Labrador: Don’t just pass Ryan budget

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, emphasized substance over style in the upcoming budget and immigration policy talks Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

Addressing the media with other conservative members of Congress, Labrador said he was encouraged by the ideas behind a budget plan set forth by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to balance the federal budget within a decade. He stressed that policy decisions should flow from that benchmark and urged the Republican party to make policy commitments, rather than simply passing the Ryan budget which has no force of law.

“Some people in this caucus believe that the plan is just to pass the Paul Ryan budget,” Labrador said, adding his goal is not to pass “a meaningless document by itself, unless we actually implement the policies that will get us to a 10-year balanced budget.”

Ryan’s budget is just one of competing visions for a federal government spending plan. Last week, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., released her own spending bill that roundly rejected several of the Republican House’s key provisions. The Ryan plan calls for no increase in taxes and complete reduction of the deficit by 2023 through reforms to Medicare and repealing the Affordable Care Act. Murray’s budget, on the other hand, calls for nearly $1 trillion in tax increases targeting the wealthy, additional stimulus spending and no fixed date for a balanced federal budget.

Both plans are working their way through Congress. President Barack Obama, also required to release a spending plan by law, has delayed doing so since February, to the ire of many Republicans. The White House now expects to release its budget next month.

Labrador is widely hailed as the prominent figure in a potential bipartisan immigration reform deal. Last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the freshman congressman reiterated his stance that there should be no new path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in any reform legislation. He called instead for enforcement of existing laws and granting “legal status” to those who entered the country illegally, without the possibility of citizenship.

He responded to comments made earlier in the week by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in favor of immigration reform. Paul called for a legal status approach in line with his own beliefs, Labrador said, rather than media reports that said he was pushing a path to citizenship. He expressed support for plans to fix what he repeatedly called a “broken system,” including several ideas offered by Paul.

“We’re talking about a minor issue,” Labrador said of the pathway to citizenship proposal. “The real issue that we’re dealing with is immigration reform. Let’s fix it.”

Labrador blamed labor unions for defeating legislation put forward in the Senate in 2007. That law would have allowed for a new type of temporary visa available to undocumented workers. A bipartisan group in the Senate released a set of principles to guide reform in January that included both a new “tough and fair” pathway to citizenship and admitting more workers into the country.

Any immigration reform legislation in the House would have to be vetted by the Judiciary Committee, said Labrador. He said the window for real reform would probably close in December, when campaigning for the midterm elections would begin in earnest.

Wolf attack: ‘Another 4 seconds, she would’ve been dead’

Shelby sits while his owners John Stevie and Sharon Willoya describe the wolf attack that almost killed the dog on March 10.

OLYMPIA – The key witness at a hearing on whether Eastern Washington needs new laws on wolves need to be changed didn't say a word Wednesday.

Shelby, a six-year-old mostly Siberian Husky mix, sat or lay quietly while county commissioners, cattlemen and wildlife officials warned about the growing danger from wolves in Eastern Washington. Then she followed her owner John Stevie to the witness table where he explained how the 60-pound dong knows about wolves first hand.

One attacked her on the porch of his home outside Twisp, 10 nights earlier. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Shea has telephone town hall tonight

Rep. Matt Shea will have telephone town hall session Wednesday evening which will give voters a chance to call in their questions about the current legislative session.

The Spokane Valley Republican likened it to a radio call-in talk show, where voters from his 4th Legislative District can ask questions between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. from the comfort of their homes.

Interested citizens call a toll-free number, 1-877-229-8493, then enter the PIN number 15550 when asked.

State revenue up, but is it enough?

OLYMPIA – Revenue projections for the next two years suggest the state budget will grow by about $2 billion. That’s more than some legislators expected and more than enough to fuel the debate between Senate Republicans and House Democrats over spending cuts and tax increases.

The March economic and revenue forecast says the state is slowly coming out of the recession, with housing starts and car sales up, overall consumer confidence down and significant questions about future hits the state coffers could take from with economic problems in Europe, a slowdown in China or the continuing budget stalemates in Washington, D.C.

We still see lots of uncertainty out there,” Steve Lerch, the state economist, said. Although legislators were bracing for a drop of as much as $300 million, the revenue forecast didn’t change significantly from December.

The state should have about $32.5 billion in its general operating fund for the two-year budget cycle, which begins July 1. That would be up from about $30.5 billion it will collect, and mostly spend, for the biennial cycle that ends June 30. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

What should a pot shop be like?

 OLYMPIA – Some time in the next year, Washington residents will be able to walk into a store and buy legal marijuana. Will that store be like Nordstrom, Wal-Mart or a mom and pop grocery?

That question surfaced Tuesday in a legislative hearing, although it couldn't be answered. The State Liquor Control Board, which is tasked by Initiative 502 with setting up the system to regulate growth, processing and sales of legal marijuana, announced early in the day it had just hired consultants to help set up that system.

The House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee meanwhile looked at ways to change the initiative’s rules on where a store can be located and how much a license costs…

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

City union loses Civil Service case

Ten workers who lost their jobs last year at the East Central Community will remain off the city payroll.

The Spokane Civil Service Commission on Tuesday unanimously rejected a complaint from the union that represented the laid off workers.

Local 270 of the Washington State Council of County and City Employees argued that its members lost employment as a result of the city improperly outsourcing services to a nonprofit.

The commission has the power to order employees wrongly discharged back on the payroll. But the five members determined that city administrators didn’t violate civil service rules.

Shea has call-in Wednesday evening

Rep. Matt Shea will have telephone town hall session Wednesday evening which will give voters a chance to call in their questions about the current legislative session.

The Spokane Valley Republican likened it to a radio call-in talk show, where voters from his 4th Legislative District can ask questions between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. from the comfort of their homes.

Interested citizens call a toll-free number, 1-877-229-8493, then enter the PIN number 15550 when asked.

Spokane and others make pitch for STEM money

WASHINGTON — A group of education and industry professionals from Washington state offered U.S. lawmakers their suggestions to promote science, technology, education and math instruction Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

The meeting, co-hosted by Washington STEM, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Sen. Patty Murray, focused on the skills gap that exists in the four disciplines between graduates and industries. The panel included representatives from Microsoft, Highline School District south of Seattle and Greater Spokane Incorporated President Rich Hadley.

Washington state ranks first in the nation in STEM jobs per capita. However, it ranks 46th in advanced degrees earned by students in those fields.

Hadley stressed the need to align class offerings in early and secondary education with the demands of the modern workforce. He said health care training was key in the Spokane area.

“The life science industry in Spokane is probably the largest benefactor of increased STEM training,” Hadley said. He pointed to several biomedical programs at Spokane Public Schools as successes of STEM-targeted instruction in eastern Washington.

Sen. Maria Cantwell addressed the panel, calling for compulsory computer science education in secondary curricula and expressing her interest in an immigration proposal that would channel fees from skilled worker visa applications to domestic STEM education funding.

Senate GOP: Give colleges extra $300 million, cut tuition

OLYMPIA — Senate Republicans announced what they dubbed a bold plan to reverse the trend in the state's public colleges and universities, saying they wanted to add $300 million to the budget for higher education over the next two years and cut tuition by 3 percent.

The extra money amounts to a 10 percent increase in the overall state spending on higher education. Of the total, $50 million would be directed at increasing slots for science, technology, engineering and math degrees, $42 million for lower tuition and $26 million to expand state need grants for children.

But at a press conference called to announce the introduction of the legislation that spells out the plan, sponsors refused to detail how they would find that $300 million in a budget that already is out of balance and has competing demands for the money that is expected to be there. They won't raise taxes, they said.

Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said state tax receipts are expected to grow by about 7 percent, which will be enough to cover the costs if the Legislature makes higher education a priority. . .

Tax breaks don’t change with the times

OLYMPIA — The Legislature should take a look at tax breaks for insurance agents and travel agents, for high tech manufacturers and bio-tech manufacturers, for folks who load big ships and folks who catch certain kinds of fish, a House committee was told Monday.

Some of them may not be stimulating the economy or creating or protect jobs as the Legislature intended when they were granted five, 10, or more than 70 years ago.

But that's hard to tell, representatives of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee told the House Finance Committee, because in many cases the Legislature didn't set down in law what it expected. The commission reviewed about three dozen tax credits, exemptions or special rates last year, and about a dozen should at least be clarified so researchers can tell if they're working as intended, an auditor said. A citizen commission said some of those should be eliminated, although legislators who sit on the review committee disagreed.

When questions arise about the jobs a tax incentive provides, it gets difficult to determine how many that are attributed to the tax break wouldn't have been created without it, John Woolley of the auditing staff said it.

Bill would highlight transportation project mistakes

OLYMPIA – The state Transportation Department would have to report mistakes on projects that cost more than $500,000 and in some cases explain to the Legislature why the person responsible wasn’t fired, under a bill being considered by a House committee.

The proposal is partly in response to some high-profile mistakes on major projects, like leaky pontoons for a bridge over Lake Washington that might cost $100 million to fix and a proposed bridge over the Columbia River that wasn’t designed to be tall enough to let ships pass and may cost $30 million to redesign and build, Rep. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, said. But a list provided to O’Ban from the Transportation Department showed some 14 projects over the last 10 years had mistakes costing a total of $29.2 million to fix.

O’Ban said the bill was about transparency and a greater level of accountability, not about punishment: “We need a process that forces the tough questions to be asked.”

But representatives of the department and its engineers said those errors are already reported, and many of the bill’s requirements for oversight are already in place.

When a costly error happens, it's not usually a single person who makes the mistake, Vince Oliveri of the transportation workers union said. “It has more to do with the process.”

Remembering Booth Gardner

Booth Gardner seemed the most unlikely of gubernatorial candidates when he first hit the campaign trail as “Booth Who?” in 1984. Sure, he was the Pierce County executive and a former legislator, so he wasn’t a complete political novice. And he was a Weyerhaeuser heir, which meant he had money.

But the money wasn’t strictly an advantage in the beginning, at least with some of Spokane’s entrenched Democrats . . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 64: Tax preferences and transpo problems

OLYMPIA — The Legislature is back in hearing mode, with committees in each chamber taking up bills the other chamber managed to pass before last week's deadline.

The House Finance Committee gets a report on an always popular topic: tax preferences, or as critics prefer to call them “loopholes.” The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, delivers its final report at 1:30 p.m. on how well some of the tax preferences are working for us.

The House Transportation Committee's afternoon agenda includes a bill that requires better reporting of construction project errors. This at a time when the state has a fairly serious problem with leaking pontoons for the new floating bridge.

Several Senate committees have confirmation hearings for Gov. Jay Inslee's appointments and the Senate Law and Justice Committee looks at a House bill that would ban the sale of “vapor cigarettes” to minors.

Full committee hearing schedule can be found inside the blog.

Sunday Spin: Bipartisanship in the eye of the beholder

OLYMPIA – As the Legislature passed a key deadline last week, the “bi” word was thrown around quite a bit. Bipartisan.

The problem was that bipartisan seems to mean different things to different people…

 

 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog

 

Legislative town halls today

Spokane-area residents will have chances to ask their legislators what’s going on in Olympia at several town hall meetings today.

Sen. Andy Billig, Reps. Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli, all Democrats from central Spokane’s 3rd District, have a 10 a.m. meeting at Shadle Park High School Auditorium, 4327 N. Ash, and a 2 p.m. meeting at Emmanuel Family Life Center, 631 S. Richard Allen Ct.

Sen. Mike Baumgartner, Reps. Kevin Parker and Jeff Holy, Republicans from northwest and south Spokane’s 6th District, have a 10 a.m. meeting at Lincoln Heights Elementary School, 3322 E. 22nd Ave.

Not sure what legislative district you're in? For a detailed map of Spokane-area legislative districts, click here.

Legislative town hall meetings in Spokane

Spokane-area residents will have chances to ask their legislators what’s going on in Olympia this weekend at several town hall meetings scheduled for Saturday.

Sen. Andy Billig, Reps. Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli, all Democrats from central Spokane’s 3rd District, have a 10 a.m. meeting at Shadle Park High School Auditorium, 4327 N. Ash, and a 2 p.m. meeting at Emmanuel Family Life Center, 631 S. Richard Allen Ct.

Sen. Mike Baumgartner, Reps. Kevin Parker and Jeff Holy, Republicans from northwest and south Spokane’s 6th District, have a 10 a.m. meeting at Lincoln Heights Elementary School, 3322 E. 22nd Ave.  

Not sure what legislative district you're in? For a detailed map of Spokane-area legislative districts, click here.

Race heating up for McLaughlin’s Spokane City Council seat

The most contested race in this year’s three races for Spokane City Council seats is almost certain to be in the Northwest council district.

One seat in each of the three districts will be on the ballot this year, but the position in the Northwest district already is attracting the most candidates.

That’s largely because incumbent City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin is term limited, leaving the seat open. The other two seats on the ballot are represented by council members Jon Snyder and Amber Waldref, who are running for reelection.

As of Thursday, two candidates had announced candidacies with the state Public Disclosure Commission for the seat representing South Spokane (District 2), three candidates had filed for the seat representing Northeast Spokane (District 1) and four had filed for the seat representing Northwest Spokane (District 3).

The fight for McLaughlin’s seat should be all the more contentious because of the close split on the current City Council between members with backing from the Republican and Democratic parties. There have been several high-profile 4-3 votes in the past year that favor the Republican-leaning members.

Read on for info on the four candidates who have announced their intentions to run for the seat.

House Republicans release ‘Education First’ budget

OLYMPIA — House Republican released their long awaited “Education First” budget, which explains how they would meet the state Supreme Court mandate to do a better job of living up to the constitutional requirement that educating our children is the state's paramount duty.

They propose spending an extra $903 million over the next two years for such things as shrinking class sizes in kindergarten through Grade 3, expanding all-day kindergarten, particularly in high poverty districts, and more school hours for grades 7-12. They also have money for more materials and charter schools.

For more information on the proposal, click here.

To be precise, it is a partial budget because it doesn't say what would be spent on non-school programs, other than to say programs will be prioritized and some will be cut. Those details will come later.

Rep. Ross Hunter, R-Medina, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said it seems more like a press release than a budget that balances competing demands on the state's resources, and appears to have inadequate reserves.

It is, however, the first salvo in the budget battle which begins in earnest after March 20, when the state's next economic and revenue forecast is released. The Senate will release its full budget first. Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said that would be by April 1.

Bill would require asbestos labels for home building products

OLYMPIA – People buying supplies for a home remodeling project might not realize that they have asbestos in them. The state Senate says the product should say so, right on the label.

This week, it passed a proposal sponsored by a Spokane senator to require such labels on a 47-2 vote. If the House agrees, labels on everything from wallboard to shingles to floor tiles to caulk would have to say if there’s asbestos inside.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Senate: Boss can’t ask for your Facebook password

OLYMPIA — The Senate told employers they can't demand their workers' password to Facebook or other social media sites.

On a 49-0 vote, they approved Senate Bill 5211, which says an employer can't ask an employee, or a prospective employee, for the information that would let them see the worker's personal account or profile as a condition of employment. They're free, however, to collect any information which is in the public domain.

An employee can file a civil action against an employer who makes such a demand, with a fine of up to $500 plus court costs. The bill now moves to the House.

Greenhouse gas task force gets OK

OLYMPIA — A special task force to figure out how well the state is doing at reducing greenhouse gas emissions got strong support from the Senate today after it was changed to get to work faster.

A critic, however, said the Legislature was paying attention to “pseudo science.”

Senate Bill 5802 would set up a task force with a representative from each of the Legislature's four caucuses and the governor, hire a consultant and determine the best ways to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions and other gases thought to contribute to global climate change.

The Legislature passed a law in 2008 to reduce such emissions, and this bill would basically answer the question: “How's that working for us?”

The task force would also look at different options for cutting down the emissions, what they would cost and suggest priorities designed to give the state the best bang for the buck.

“I want to take the religion out of carbon,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who added he didn't vote for the original law in 2008, but it's in place now.

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, said the state is particularly vulnerable on climate issues because it can be easily affected by declining snow packs and rising sea levels. The task force won't be answering the question “is it happening?” as “what are we going to do about it?”

But Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, said supporters were producing “a long of pseudo science” on possible problems with global temperatures.

“I have no problem with the earth warming,” he said, because carbon dioxide encourages plant growth. “You're making an assumption that it is carbon dioxide that's causing the earth to warm, it could be the other way around.”

The increase in temperatures could be part of natural patterns, and causing more of the gas to be released from the oceans, he said.

The task force would be set up in mid May, rather than mid July, making it more likely a report would be available for next year's legislative session. The bill passed on a 37-12 vote.

WA Lege Day 59: Deadline looms

OLYMPIA — Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 bills face a timely death today at 5 p.m.

Timely because if they don't pass the chamber where they were introduced, they are essentially dead for the session.

The Senate began work on their list of bills about 10 a.m. The House went into caucus to discuss which bills they want to take up first. The House spent quite a bit of time in caucus on Tuesday, so long that at one point there was discussion about which side had longer caucuses…  which led to some Twitter discussions that could have been taken more than one way.

The working theorem is: Double entendrees may rise in inverse proportion to the amount of legislation that is considered.

Background check bill dies

OLYMPIA – Democrats abandoned a bill to require wider background checks for gun purchases late Tuesday after disagreements over the proposals caused the House of Representatives to grind to a halt for a second afternoon Tuesday.

“It does not appear we are going to make it,” Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said Tuesday evening to announce that the proposal did not have the necessary 50 votes to pass the House beforeWednesday's 5 p.m. deadline. “It turns out it was just too big of a stretch.”

Pedersen, Gov. Jay Inslee and other supporters of the plan known as universal background checks had struggled since Monday to round up the necessary 50 votes needed to pass House Bill 1588. Meanwhile, the fate of dozens of other bills hung in the balance because they must also come to a vote before that 5 p.m. deadline. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Universal background check bill expected today

Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, the sponsor of the universal background check bill, talks with Rep. Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma, one of its key opponents, before debate starts on the bill.

OLYMPIA — The House is expected to vote this afternoon on a bill requiring all gun sales to be subjected to background checks.

Heard that before, you say. Like yesterday?

It's true that House Democrats thought they had the votes to bring up the bill yesterday. But as the afternoon dragged on with their members in and out of a rolling caucus meeting, it became clear that they didn't.

Today, they may have a solution: Adding an amendment to the bill that requires a public approval of the law in November. That's one of nine amendments that legislators may be asked to consider on HB 1588. To see the bill, and proposed amendments, click here.

Watch this space for updates.

New marijuana rules proposed

OLYMPIA — Changes to last year's recreational marijuana law that a sponsor says will make it more workable will get a hearing next week in a House committee

Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, wants to shrink the distance restrictions for locating stores that sell marijuana and have the state sell store licenses at market rates to raise more money.

Under Initiative 502, a store selling recreational marijuana must be at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks and other institutions. That would so severely restrict possible locations that large areas of cities would be closed off, Hurst said. Spokane might have as few as nine locations where a store could be located, he said.

His proposal would change the restriction to 500 feet, which is currently the restriction for liquor stores.

“If we don't make it available, the criminal market is going to fill those gaps,” he said.The goal of I-502 is to drive the illegal market for marijuna out of the state, he added.

I-502 also sets a licensing fee of $1,000 for a marijuana store. Hurst's bill would allow the state Liquor Control Board to set a market value on the right to sell marijuana, which could be much higher, depending on the location. The right to set up a store in a high-end shopping mall should be worth more than the right to set up a storefront operation in a small town, he said.

He estimated the market certificate system could raise as much as $50 million for the state's general operating fund.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing next Tuesday in Hurst's Government Overssight and Accountability Committee. Because it contains potential tax revenues that could help the budget, it does not face impending deadlines to be passed by one chamber or the other to remain viable.

But it will require two-thirds approval in both chambers, because it seeks to change a successful initiative less than two years after it was passed by voters.

House expands time to prosecute child sex crimes

OLYMPIA — Sex crimes involving minors could be prosecuted until the victim turns 30 under a bill that passed unanimously this morning in the House of Representatives.

HB 1352 mirrors a bill that passed last week in the and seeks to expand the statute of limitations to allow prosecutions after a victim becomes an adult and is better able to report the crime.

 Current law says that first- and second-degree child rape involving a victime 14 or under can be prosecuted until the victim reaches 28 but only if it is reported in the first year. Cases involving a victim between 14 and 18 can be prosecuted for 10 years if it is reported within a year.

Minor differences in the two bills will have to be worked out by the two chambers.

 

 

WA Lege Day 58: Expect lots of vote because clock is ticking

OLYMPIA — Both chambers are expected to be working feverishly to pass legislation throughout the day ahead of tomorrow's key deadline that will render many unpassed bills dead.

Plans to bring up universal background checks for gun purchases hit a major stumbling block Monday when supporters couldn't round up the necessary votes, and the House shifted to health care legislation. No word yet on whether background checks and some of the other gun legislation will make an appearance on today's House calendar.

Rep. Chris Hurst, D- Enumclaw, is scheduled to announce a plan to establish the state's recreational marijuana market at lunchtime.

Inslee names Health, Early Learning heads

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee continued filling cabinet slots today with three appointments.

Bud Hover, an Okanogan rancher and former county commissioner, was named director of the Department of Agriculture.

John Wiesman, Clark County Public Health director, was named director of the Department of Health.

Bette Hyde was asked to stay on as director of the Department of Early Learning.

For the full rundown from the governor's office press release, go inside the blog. 

Vote on background checks may be delayed

OLYMPIA — A vote on a bill that would require a background check for private gun sales might be delayed because it doesn't have enough support to pass, a co-sponsor said.

The vote on HB 1588 will probably not take place today, Rep. Mike Hope of Lake Stevens,who may be  the lone Republican supporter of the bill. Democrats, who have a comfortable majority in the House, may not have the votes needed to pass it, he said.

With Gov. Jay Inslee spending time in the House wings trying to drum up support for background checks around lunchtime, Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, had predicted the bill would be among a package of gun-control proposals to be put to a vote starting around 3 p.m. But after easy votes on four the chamber went into recess and Democrats began talking about holding debates on health care legislatrion instead.

billson the package that involvine changes to the mental health system,   Pedersen said through a spokeswoman the background check bill could still come up for a vote later in the day, or in the evening.

All legislation must pass the chamber where it was introduced by 5 p.m. Wednesday, or be dead for the session.

House passes 4 mental health bills

OLYMPIA — The House gave overwhelming support this afternoon to four bills designed to tighten up mental health laws involving violent people.

It gave unanimous support expanded the ability of victims of stalking and “cyberstalking” to seek protective orders from a court, in a bill that also allows a judge to require the person named in the protective order to surrenter his or her firearms and concealed weapons permit.

Another bill that received a 98-0 vote would move up by one year, to July 1, 2014, the enactment of changes to the Involuntary treatment law which require faster competency evaluations for defendants facing charges involving violent crimes.

Another bill tightens rules so that a person judged incompetent to stand trial for a violent crime is required to receive inpatient treatment and law enforcement officials are notified when that person is released. The fourth sets up a system for a court to order competency evaluations of a potential defendant if the overburdened state hospital system fails to do so within a set timeline.

House may vote on gun bills today

Gov. Jay Inslee talks with Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, during a visit to the House to lobby for votes on a bill to require universal background checks on gun purchases.

OLYMPIA — The House is expected to take up a package of bills supporters say are designed to curb gun violence today, if sponsors line up a few more yes votes for key legislation.

Gov. Jay Inslee made stops on both sides of the chamber in an effort to line up support for a bill that would extend background checks to private sales. Rep. Jamie Pederesen, D-Seattle, said that bill has at least 47 of the 50 votes needed for passage, and there are six or seven other legislators who are “maybes”.

Pedersen, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the House may start running the package of bills at mid afternoon, starting with legislation aimed at the mental health system. That will include a bill to make changes in requirements for involuntary treatment, and another to close what he described as a gap between the standards for a person who is incompetent to stand trial on criminal charges but not incompetent for civil cases.

Other bills in the package would be expanded authority to recover firearms and concealed weapons permits from someone under a protection order for stalking, and a registry of firarms offenders.

Among the last bills in the package Pedersen expects to be debated would be the so-called “universal background check” bill, which extends current requirements for the buyers of firearms to private sales from commercial sales.

In the area between the House floor and Democratic leadership's offices, Inslee called the ability for felons to buy guns in private sales “a loophole that common sense tells us needs to be closed.” He said he was talking to House members of both parties “asking them to step up to the plate.”

Sunday Spin: Silliness at the halfway mark

OLYMPIA – As the Legislature passed the halfway mark in the 2013 session last week, some members started to show signs of too much time in the damp, gray environs of the South Puget Sound.

Or maybe just too much time in close proximity to each other. Whatever the reason, we saw a rise in legislation introduced for no reason other than to make political points .. . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Sunday Spin2: Breathe deep, then hold it

Then there was Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, who had the bad sense to be flippant in an e-mail, which in 2013 amounts to spray painting an expletive about one’s boss on a brick wall, and signing one’s name.

Orcutt derided the House Democrats’ recent proposal to come up with some $10 billion for transportation projects through a series of tax and fee increases. A long-time foe of most tax increases, Orcutt allowed as how there was one he could countenance: a proposed $25 fee for new bikes costing more than $500, to be used to help pay for bike lanes and trails.

When the owner of a bike shop wrote to tell Orcutt why that was a dumb idea, he responded essentially that it was time for bike riders to pick up a share of the cost of the roads on which they ride. Then he went a bit further.

“Also, you claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride a bike. But if I am not mistaken, a cyclist has an increased heart rate and respiration. That means that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon diozxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride.”

His e-mail quickly found its way to the Cascade Bicycle Club’s blog, from whence it made its way around cyberspace. He later apologized, saying he was trying to make the point that biking isn’t a zero-pollution activity, but did it poorly and probably shouldn’t even have gone there.

Autopsy comment bill passes Senate

OLYMPIA — Medical examiners would have permission to discuss their conclusions from the autopsies for people killed during law enforcement actions under a bill that passed the Senate unanimously Friday.

The proposal, prompted by several high-profile cases in the Spokane area with fatalities involving local law enforcement, gives a medical examiner or coroner permission to talk about the results of their investigations, said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the bill's sponsor. Confidentiality restrictions would also be lifted when a person dies in law enforcement custody.

The formal autopsy report, which can include graphic photographs of the victim, would remain confidential.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich had pushed for the bill after complaining that he was unable to clear up “misinformation and myths” about some controversial cases.  One such case involved the Sept. 5 death of Edward Gover, who returned to the home of a woman he'd held hostage and encountered deputies who thought he had a weapon. They said they fired when he charged them, but no weapon was found and two of the bullets struck Gover in the back.

Knezovich said the deputies responded appropriately, but he couldn't discuss the autopsy findings because of orders from the county medical examiner's office.

The organization representing lthe state's county officials dropped its objection to the proposal after it was amended to ensure confidentiality of the formal report, Padden said. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.

Cost for Stephens’ investigation unknown

It remains unclear how much the city will pay a retired judge to investigate “circumstances” that led Police Chief Frank Straub to place his assistant chief on paid administrative leave.

Assistant Police Chief Scott Stephens was placed on leave by Straub in December. City officials have declined to say what led to the action, saying it’s a personnel issue that can’t yet be discussed publicly. Stephens’ attorney, Bob Dunn, said this week that Straub placed Stephens on leave after he was accused of threatening work place violence in a private conversation with a friend who works within the department after Stephens had been told that he would be demoted.

Mayor David Condon announced on Monday that retired U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan, of Oregon, would perform the city’s Internal Affairs investigation into Stephens instead of city employees.

Hogan started work on the investigation this week, but there is not yet a final agreement on how much Hogan will be paid, said city spokesman Brian Coddington. He is expected to work on the investigation for about a month.

Gun debate flares in WA Senate

OLYMPIA — A resolution praising a school program to teach firearms safety to kids briefly ignited the gun-control debate in the state Senate this morning.

The resolution was in support of the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, which is sponsored by the National Rifle Association and offered free to schools It calls for the state's schools, pre-schools, early learning centers and licensed day care facilities to promote the use of the program.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, objected, saying the program isn't just about gun safety, “it's about the NRA”. He said that organization has been working to block all gun-control legislation this session, including one of his proposals that allowed a person in mental distress to voluntarily turn a gun over to police for 30 days for safe-keeping. The majority coalition that runs the Senate has been “a bit too obedient” to the NRA, he contended.

Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, said she couldn't believe anyone would vote against a child safety program, regardless of its source.

“Does Ceasefire have a program to help teach children how to be safe?” Roach asked, mentioning a prominent gun-control group. “If you're not in favor of a program to help save children's lives, vote 'No.'”

Sen. Marilyn Chase, D-Shoreline, the sponsor of the resolution, agreed the issue was about gun-safety, adding none of the Eddie Eagle literature mentions the NRA. “I am not an advocate for an organization that makes excuses for assault weapons manufacturers.”

The resolution, SJM 8006, passed 40-8.

Dicks to Senate: Work together

OLYMPIA — The Senate began its day with a resolution honoring former U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, with a string of legislators telling stories of how the long-term congressman helped them with a project an issue or a campaign.

Dicks, who retired last year after 36 years in the House, took the rostrum and, with a voice that sometimes broke, offered them a bit of advice.

“It is so important, both in Washington, D.C., and here in Olympia, that we work together…in the best interests of the people of the state.”

The elections are over, he said, and it's time to prove “good people can work together to get things done for Washington state.” 

WA Lege Day 54: Full day of bill debates

OLYMPIA — Legislators in both houses will likely spend most of the day at their desks, voting on a wide variety of bills that have to be moved to the other chamber by next Wednesday or be declared dead.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on several bills involving health care and medical insurance this morning. House will be debating education bills. 

Senate pushes more school changes

OLYMPIA – The Senate spent part of a second day making changes to the state’s education laws, approving a plan to identify and change “persistently failing” schools and removing certain outdated mandates for schools.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

House passes election changes

OLYMPIA – Some would-be voters would have more time to register online, and younger ones could “pre-register” as early as age 16 under election law changes approved Thursday by the House.

Often by large margins, the House passed and sent to the Senate a handful of bills that supporters said will increase participation in elections. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here go inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 53: Past the half-way point

OLYMPIA — If the Legislature were a transcontinental flight, someone would be telling the pilot “We're past the point of no return.” Dramatic as that sounds, it's really just  the point when you are closer to the place you're landing than the place you left.

It's Day 53 of a 105-day session, so we are closer to the end than the beginning — provided the Legislature can break with recent history and avoid a special session.

Sticking to a one-day-at-a-time focus, however, both chambers will likely be voting on bills off an on throughout the day, and possibly into the evening. Schedules aren't known until shortly before the bills come up.

Ethics Commission drops complaints against Stuckart, Waldref

The Spokane Ethics Commission on Wednesday dismissed complaints against two City Council members who were accused of improperly using city resources to promote their positions on propositions on the ballot in last month’s special election.

Council President Ben Stuckart and Councilwoman Amber Waldref acknowledged that they sent an email newsletter advocating their positions on election issues that appeared to have been sent from their city email accounts. But both said that their newsletters were actually sent from a different address through an online newsletter service.

Baumgartner: Cut 4 Sup Court judges

OLYMPIA — The state should reduce its Supreme Court by four members to save money, Sen. Mike Baumgartner says.

In a bill introduced today with two Republican colleagues, the Spokane legislator said the state could save as much as $2 million a year by reducing the court to five members.

In what might be considered a bit of pique over last week's decision overturning the two-thirds majority requirement for tax increases, Baumgartner said the reduction would also be in line with the court's admonition against adding requirements to clear constitutional mandates.

“The constitution clearly says that the Supreme Court shall consist of five judges,” he said in a prepared statement.

That's a reference to Article IV, Section 2, but only part of that section. The whole section says: 

The supreme court shall consist of five judges, a majority of whom shall be necessary to form a quorum, and pronounce a decision. The said court shall always be open for the transaction of business except on nonjudicial days. In the determination of causes all decisions of the court shall be given in writing and the grounds of the decision shall be stated. The legislature may increase the number of judges of the supreme court from time to time and may provide for separate departments of said court.

Over time, the Legislature did increase the number of judges to the current nine.

As to how to decide which justices would stay and which would go, Baumgartner's bill suggests they draw lots. 

“Based on their recent rulings on McCleary (requiring the state spend more to improve public schools) and their rationale behind the decision to throw out the will of the people regarding the two-thirds tax rule, I expect the court will support this approach,” he said in a prepared statement. If not, they can lobby for a constitutional amendment.

The bill is introduced so late in session that deadlines for new bills have passed and it has almost no chance of passing. But it could get a hearing in the Senate Law and Justice Committee, Chairman Mike Padden said, if a case can be made that the bill is necessary to implement the budget.

A House committee held a hearing this morning on a bill to abolish capital punishment, in part on a claim that such a change would affect the budget by saving money on the costly appeals for death row inmates, Padden said.

CBS looks at fight between sheriffs and deputies

 

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich asked the Legislature last month to change the laws to make it harder for cops who get fired for breaking the law to be reinstated by an arbitrator. 

Police organizations argued that the current systyem works just fined.

A Senate committee listened, but didn't do anything, and the bill died.

Today Knezovich made his case on a national stage, as CBS Morning News looked at cases of arbitrators ordering cops back to work after egregious activity. Interesting to note that Knezovich is the sheriff who gets the most air time, but the videos of bad cops all come from elsewhere.

Senate expands time to prosecute child sex crimes

OLYMPIA — The Senate voted unanimously this morning to expand the time a person can be charged with sex crimes against a minor.

Under Senate Bill 5100, a suspect in a sexual assault, molestation, incest of indecent liberties case could be charged at any time before the victim turns 30.

The proposal is the latest version of an effort in recent years to expand the statute of limitations on sex crimes involving children. Some previous efforts have left open the time when such a charge can be filed, although law enforcement officials argued that would offer victims false hopes because the chances of obtaining a prosecution diminish as years pass.

“This does strike a balance,” Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said, giving victims time to report and police a chance to catch offenders.

A person who commits a sex crime against someone who is less than 18 years old could be prosecuted for that crime until the victim turns 30. Current state law says that first and second-degree child rape involving a victim 14 or under can be prosecuted until the victim reaches 28, but only if it is reported in the first year. Cases involving a victim between 14 and 18 can be prosecuted for 10 years, if it is reported within a year.

The bill now moves to the House, where previous efforts to extend the statute of limitations on child sex offenses have passed with strong support.

For previous coverage of SB 5100, click here.

WA Lege Day 50: Sex-trafficking bills pass Senate

OLYMPIA – The Senate tried to strengthen laws against human trafficking Monday, approving a pair of bills that would crack down on sex crimes involving minors.

In the first of two unanimous votes, the Senate agreed to add a fine of up to $5,000 on top of other penalties for anyone convicted of paying for sex with a minor has used an internet ad to find the prostitute. The bill is a  response to a court’s rejection of a law passed last year that tried to restrict and penalize the websites that carry the ads.

The Senate then passed a bill that would to expand penalties for against people who recruit minors to become prostitutes or those who patronize them.

The state needs to do what it can to prevent teens from being lured into the sex trade, said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, who called human trafficking is the modern term for slavery.

Today’s fun video: SNL explains the sequester

 

If you're tired of hearing about the sequester from the Sunday morning talk shows, consider the explanation from Saturday Night Live.

WA Lege Day 50: Floor action expected

OLYMPIA — The legislative session hits the big Five-Oh today, and has floor sessions scheduled throughout the day. No committee hearings at all, just caucus meetings, debates and votes. Might even have evening sessions.

Lists of bills coming up for votes will be expected as the day rolls along.

Sunday Spin: Helping to understand Hanford

OLYMPIA –As most of official Olympia repeatedly hit the “refresh” button Thursday morning on their computers to catch the state Supremes’ decision on tax supermajorities as soon as possible, a handful of legislators got a briefing on something with the potential for far more impact to the state.

Jane Hedges of the state Department of Ecology explained the intricacies of nuclear waste tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, doing her best to calm the uproar over recent news that six of the supposedly stable tanks are, in fact, leaking.

Trying to explain most things at Hanford to laypersons can be a Herculean task. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Somebody get a cake and 160 candles

Happy Birthday to WA.
Happy Birthday to WA.
Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday to WA.

You can sing that today to mark the 160th anniversary of this part of the Northwest becoming Washington. The Secretary of State's office informs us that on this day in 1853, a chunk of the Oregon Territory was carved off and named the Washington Territory, in response to requests from settler's north of the Columbia River. (They say it's Washington's tetracentennial, and they probably know these official kinds of things, although to be honest we couldn't find that word in any dictionary we had handy.)

Oregon became a state in 1859, and the eastern section of Washington Territory became the Idaho Territory in 1863.

Washington became a state in 1889, but it was a territory before it was a state, so technically this is WA's B-day.

To read more about it, and see some maps of the good old days, check out the Secretary of State's blog post by clicking here.

McMorris Rodgers on Bloomberg TV

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers gets time on “Political Capital with Al Hunt” tonight to defend House Republicans' approach to the nation's budget problems and lay the blame on Senate Democrats and President Obama.

The show airs first at 6 p.m. Pacific tonight on Bloomberg TV, and repeats several times through the weekend. Here's a Bloomberg News print  version of her comments. 

WA Lege Day 47: Deadline for bills that cost money

OLYMPIA — It's another cut-off day in the Legislature… which does not mean we'll be seeing legislators walking around in old jeans that have been shortened to shorts.

This is the day that bills with some kind of fiscal impact must get out of the committees that handle the spending of state money, or else.

Or else what? Generally speaking, they're dead for the session. There are a few parliamentary procedures to revive them, but in most cases, you can forget about them.

The agendas for the Senate Ways and Means and House Appropriations committees are fluid right now, so rather than post agendas which essentially have nothing in them, we'll give you a link to the Web page where the schedules are posted as soon as they become solid.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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